About TDTS

What is TDTS?

This paper in the International Journal of Science Education sets out the academic credentials for TDTS in terms of the underlying educational theories and the evidence of impact, both in terms of quantitative and qualitative data via the randomised controlled trial of the EET efficacy trial. This paper in Research in Science and Technological Education illustrates how a mixed methods approach is required to substantiate the nature, as well the extent of impact, of an educational intervention, as exemplified in TDTS. The book Practical Theorising in Teacher Education, edited by colleagues from the University of Oxford, applies the concept of ‘practical theorising’ to the context of primary teacher education, focusing specifically on TDTS and the ways that teachers develop subject knowledge alongside critical engagement with creative approaches to pedagogy. In this paper in the ASE publication Science Teacher Education, Bridget and Helen reflect on the challenges of scaling up TDTS via a ‘train the trainer’ model.

TDTS was evaluated during 2013-15 via a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) – a phase known as an ‘efficacy trial’. The evaluation was carried out by the Institute for Effective Education at the University of York. Teachers of Year 5 pupils from 42 Oxfordshire primary schools took part, with half of them (the ‘intervention’ schools) receiving the training in 2013-14 and the other half (the ‘control’ schools) in 2014-15, after all the attainment and attitude data from pupils had been gathered.

Thanks to co-funding from the Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) we are able to work with education partners to make TDTS courses and resources more widely available to primary teachers. A Bright Ideas Time module is available on the PSTT website here. Science Oxford can deliver an online version of their TDTS Taster 1 CPD session focussed on discussion techniques to encourage pupils’ thinking skills. TDTS-based activity resources created by Science Oxford can also be found here.


Bridget Holligan

Bridget Holligan

Science Oxford

Helen Wilson

Helen Wilson

Oxford Brookes University

Efficacy trial success

The results for the first randomised controlled trial were reported in the summer of 2015. They showed that overall, the Year 5 pupils in schools using the TDTS approach made approximately three additional months’ progress in science. The programme had a particularly positive effect on girls and on pupils with lower prior attainment (4 months’ progress) and there were indications that the approach had most impact on pupils eligible for free school meals (5 months’ progress).

Pupils who received TDTS also reported a significant increase in positive attitudes to science, science lessons and practical work. Teacher feedback revealed that all participating teachers had made changes to their classroom practice as a consequence of the training at that they enjoyed teaching science more.

“It’s fantastic when our evaluations produce solid evidence that a particular approach has a positive impact on attainment. It’s especially rewarding when they boost children’s attitudes towards learning too. But the reality of robust educational research is that these results are the exception and not the rule.”

Sir Kevan Collins, CEO, Education Endowment Foundation

“The available evidence indicates that the programme can be implemented at scale through a train-the-trainers model, that it is valued by teachers exposed to the programme, and it changes their teaching practices in a manner consistent with the hypothesis.”

EEF Report, 2018

Effectiveness trial results

As a result of this success, TDTS was labelled a ‘promising project’ by the EEF, who subsequently funded a larger scale RCT of TDTS called an ‘effectiveness trial’ from 2016-18. This was designed to explore whether the impact of TDTS could be replicated at scale, via a ‘train the trainer’ model in seven regions of England. Seven delivery partners were recruited and the American Institutes for Research was the external evaluator.

Over 9000 pupils and 380 teachers in 205 schools across England participated and the findings showed that, on average, pupils’ interest in, and self-efficacy towards, science increased.

There was also a small impact on attainment among children eligible for school meals although this study found that there was no apparent impact on attainment across the whole sample. TDTS remains a ‘promising project’ for the EEF, and in 2021 a re-effectiveness trial was begun to explore how the ‘train-the-trainer model’ model can be improved to ensure that all the impacts of the original efficacy trial can be replicated at scale with a more ‘market ready’ model.

“Children start to develop perceptions about whether science is ‘for them’ towards the end of primary school. It is therefore essential that all primary school pupils experience inspiring science that builds their understanding of the value and place of science in their lives. This will lay the bedrock for their future studies, enable them to make well-informed decisions in our increasingly hi-tech world and give them access to a wide range of rewarding careers.”

Wellcome Trust Report 2014 – Primary Science: Is it Missing Out?

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